Last week I received some artwork posters kindly sent as gift by Bhaji Kanwar Singh Dhillon from www.ArtOfPunjab.com website. Bhaji's artwork and outlook to art is very refreshing and uplifting!
This is a painting by Veer Kanwar Singh Dhillon of Vaisakhi 1699, from a unique angle. It shows the first of the Pyaare (Beloved Ones) volunteering his head to Guru Gobind Singh jee, who has his sword unsheathed, and Mata Sahib Kaur jee is on the opposite side compassionately welcoming the first of the Panj Pyaare - Bhai Dharam Daas jee who become Bhai Dharam Singh jee.
This painting by Veer Kanwar Singh depicts Baba Banda Singh jee Bahadur making his final stand against the vast Mugal army at Gurdas Nangal. Baba Banda Singh jee Bahadur was handed the mantle of leadership from Guru Gobind Singh jee and became the first of many great Khalsa generals during the turbulent 18th Century. He delivered justice for the crimes committed against Guru jee's family and punished the cruel tyrants.
I hope Bhaji doesn't mind me sharing something that he wrote in an email to me. He share his thoughts on what the purpose and objective of his artwork is:
"I have a degree in history but it wasn't until I started reading Sikh history (post university) when I realized how we have been blessed with so many heroes that have shaped and preserved our religion and way of life. I hope to dedicate my life to shedding more light on these great Sikhs through my art because I feel that most of the painted works we routinely see are getting very dated and loosing their impact on younger generations of Sikhs."
I am bit of sceptic with some artwork because I have seen art being "misused" for idol worship. I personally believe that art and illustration can beautifully represent historical events and personalities that can easily connect to the individual's heart and emotions. "A picture speaks a thousand words". This is true. However, some artwork, in particular paintings depicting just the face of the Guru Sahibaans (mostly painted by Sobha Singh) have become in some cases excuses for idol worship and veneration of an image over the true reality of what Guru Jee means and is to us. Many houses and shops in India have images depicting the Guru Sahibaans with flower garlands over them (usually done with dead family members' photos), placing incense in front of it and then bowing down in front of it.
It was really positive to hear from Bhaji Kanwar Singh and how he is trying to represent Sikh history so that he can rouse the Sikh spirit within those who otherwise wouldn't pick up a history book. Bhaji wrote, "...It's a bit of a balancing act between inputing the necessary aesthetics to create a strong painting but not so much that it becomes an idol in itself."
Bhaji is obviously a talented artist! May Waheguru bless him with the sevaa of serving the Panth through his inspiring artwork and illustrations depicting the glorious history and faith of Sikhs.
Please support the artist and visit his website to take a look at his impressive work. Also he has a Flickr account where you can see more of his work (some of which is still in progress): http://www.flickr.com/photos/artofpunjab/